tears in the morning

not much to say
‘s finally here
31st March
most hated day of the year

I’m blessed to have awakened
but still I cried
cause it’s 31st March
the day my mother died

I like to think she’s watchin’ me
from her perch in the sky far above
she’s sitting next to Daddy
both protect me with their love

for many other people
this is just another day
but for me, 31st March
is when Mommy went away

copyright © 2020 KPM

the many faces of love

alone on Saturday night behind locked doors
I drink too much wine & pace the floors
“How long?” I wonder, “Can this nightmare last?”
I’m sure it’s a question that many have asked
laptop, mobile & tablet aligned on the table
I seek companionship as best I’m able

Chelle’s driving, on her way to the liquor store
all buckled up & laughing that she needs “wine ‘n more!”
I tilt my wine glass in a toast to the face on the screen
while we discuss the merits of what goes best with which cuisine
she pulls her shiny car into the parking bay
“Stay safe” we tell each other before our images melt away

my sister Kim is lying down, sleeping so peacefully
I feel bad that I’ve awakened her just to talk to me
now labelled as “essential”, each day my sister goes to work
while I putter in my garden feeling like a useless jerk
Kim is my heart, mother to my nephew & beautiful nieces
her beloved face, her voice, keep me from falling to pieces

finding Tora free at home is a wonderful surprise
love dwells in her face – hope shines in her eyes
my friend ‘n colleague from those memorable Ursuline years
sunny days spent in the quad sharing laughter, dreams & tears
seeing her, talking to her is always so much fun
“You were right, Kath,” she jokes, “We shoulda run.”

Sharon’s video call is welcome though unexpected
her face ‘n Jourdy’s smile keep me from feeling dejected
besties for 58 years, longer than some folks’ve been married
understanding each other, anchored by love that’s unvaried
always calm, she reassures me this state of affairs will end
I blow kisses, to my surrogate child & my oldest friend

the second bottle is almost empty – the last few sips I drain
tidying up I dream of the future, when I can get on a plane
over an ocean and through the heavens I will happily soar
to the land of my youth to hug my family & friends once more
the hour is late now, so I climb into my bed
with many faces of love dancing through my head

copyright © 2020 KPM

la rona

on this chilly spring night
when she is all alone
she’s happy to see a light shining
in a window other than her own

for a plague has fallen
on the land she holds so dear
death & dissension seek to reign
along with the minions of fear

this plague makes no distinctions:
young or old, poor or rich
it’s not something one can turn off
by a simple toggle switch

yet some folks don’t think it’s serious
merrily skipping out the door
“it’s a hoax – fake news” they laugh
advice & warnings they ignore

the knowledge she possesses
did not come through grapevines
for she has many friends & family
that are on the front lines

this threat is real – relentless
crossing borders, seas & moors
why take the risk? be sensible
keep your ass indoors

copyright © 2020 KPM

interesting times

There is no sun in Dundee today. As I type these words, it’s bang on 7am so it’s light outside, but there’s no sun: the sky is a gun-metal gray. And I can tell there’s no wind – at least at the moment – because the ivy outside my living room and kitchen windows is still; not slapping against the windows the way they would if it were windy out. I suppose it doesn’t matter, as I have done all the laundry there was to do: yesterday I even removed the covers from the cushions of both sofas and washed them. There’s no need for me to clean my wee flat; it’s fuckin’ immaculate, and it still smells of bleach and Dettol from the thorough wiping down I gave everything on Sunday.

Do animals think? I think my fish are confused…they’ve been hanging in front of the tank in a line like aquatic soldiers at attention, staring out at me for a little over 90 minutes now. Are they wondering why the overhead light is still on? Why their Benevolent Fish Goddess is still seated at her desk in her pajamas, her hair an uncombed and nappy nimbus around her head?

It’s been five days since my work shut down. And since I have been avoiding the news for the sake of my mental health, I missed BoJo’s speech yesterday, which means I awakened this morning to discover the country is now in lockdown.

The first thing that popped into my head upon learning this was that ancient (supposedly, as it’s never been proven) Chinese curse: “may you live in interesting times.” As a boomer, I’ve seen a lot of “interesting times.” Wars. The successful and unsuccessful assassinations of political figures. LBJ signing the act that gave black people the right to vote on television. Man’s cruelty to man as evinced by Matthew Shepherd and Rodney King. Roe v Wade. Too many school shootings. Katrina. I could go on, but why bother? None of those events has given me a frame of reference, or any kind of preparation, for this.

My emotions vacillate wildly between hope and positivity, fear, anger, sorrow and dread. I’m a control freak; I knew this about myself long before my therapist brought this facet of my character to my attention. I need to feel like I have a measure of control over my life, and I’m certain many other people feel the same way. Now, an event out with everyone’s control has forever changed life as it once was.

I can’t help but feel dismayed, watching people spread wild conspiracy theories on Facebook and other social media platforms. I’m annoyed by the proliferation of “it’s the end of the world posts.” It’s appalling, watching people fight on Facebook. I’m deeply concerned, watching my friends in the care home industry, the NHS, Police Scotland and those who work in supermarkets go to work every day while I – like the vast majority of the populace with common sense – remain safe indoors. Apart from those times when I go out in my garden, to weed, to cut the grass, to trim the shrubs. I thank God for that small patch of earth.

Mostly, I am broken-hearted watching my friends with mental health issues grow more and more distressed. I can see it in their posts. I can see it in their private messages and their texts to me. I can only speak to my own experience, but I know, on those days when depression has a relentless grip on me, getting out helped. Going to work helped. Especially where I worked, where people hugged one another. If you scroll through this blog, you will see several poems and essays I’ve written about touch. Touch is healing; it’s essential to good mental health. One of the things I love about my partner is how he touches me…he holds my hand, he hugs me. We always fall asleep holding each other. Lockdown puts an end to that.

So I try hard to keep my spirits up. I need – I want – to keep that black dog at bay. I am going to see the end of this nightmare, and although I don’t know the how or the when, I just keep telling myself “this too shall pass” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, KJV).

Y’all stay safe.

K xxx

on Saturday morning

Things are changing far too quickly for me.

In the post below, writing of the changes I’d observed throughout Dundee since Covid-19 took over the world and my general thoughts and feelings surrounding this, I also wrote of my friend Josh, my young student friend whom I know through my work who had moved in with me.

Our first day and night as roomies was a good one; I had so much fun. A loner since childhood, I’ve always been content and comfortable with my own company and have always preferred to live alone. And apart from my two husbands Clinton & Tyrone, followed by Bryon (who almost 32 years later I still find it difficult to talk about) and Colin, the guy I originally moved to Scotland for, I have always lived alone.

That first day and night, Josh and I shared our fears, bolstered each other up, quickly agreed on what he’d pay while living with me, made a list of words we would both avoid using in order to keep our spirits up, and watched senseless movies while eating junk food until we both started to doze off mid-sentence.

“Are you sure about this?” Josh asked for what had to be the 22nd time as together we made up the sofa bed where he would sleep. “I truly appreciate this, but I don’t want to intrude, and I don’t want to interfere with your time with John.”

“For fucks sake, stop asking me that,” I groaned. “We’re good, babes. I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it. These are interesting times and there are no rules – all rule books have gone out the window. You’re okay, I’m okay, we’re safe here. Love you…here’s the remotes – see you in the morning.” And I covered him with the duvet, the same way I cover my Scottish bestie JoJo when she stays with me.

“Can you turn the telly and the light out please?” he asked. “Think I’m just gonna go to sleep.” So I did that, and then tiptoed away to my own bed.

I kept getting up throughout the night. My sleep was thin, my dreams disturbed and all the Pepsi we’d drunk earlier meant I kept needing to pee. And each time I got up to go to the loo, I would peek in on Josh, like any mother checking on her child, thinking how funny and strange and yet wonderful it was that I, who had made the decision at the tender age of nine to never have children, had ended up in the latter years of my life as a mother figure to so many. In truth, every time someone calls me “Mumma” or “Mum” or “Ma”, I am deeply honoured. I hope the people who call me by this name know how honoured and humbled I am that they have awarded me with this sobriquet.

The next morning I awakened at 7am. I peered into the living room at Josh, who was blissfully asleep, looking all of 12 years old. I took my laptop, tablet and mobile into the kitchen, where I answered FB messages, texts, worked on my novel and chain-smoked and drank coffee. When I went into the living room at 9am to feed the fish, Josh was awake.

“Hey, you’re awake!” I said. “Morning! You okay….you sleep okay?”

“Morning,” he said, smiling. “Yeah, I’m okay…musta been more tired than I realised.”

“That’s understandable,” I told him. “You’ve had a helluva week.” Josh is president of the SRC (Student Representative Council) where I work, and he’d been working non-stop to make sure the SRC members, the students on campus and pretty much everybody (the author of this piece included!) was okay and still getting the support they needed in the run up to the sad but inevitable closure.

“Hope I wasn’t loud,” he said. “I talk in my sleep, and my flatmates have told me I swear at people in my sleep.”

“You’re good, baby,” I told him. “I’ve talked in my sleep for years. I also cry, laugh, and cuss people out. I’m prone to nightmares, which got worse after my Mom passed…I’m always punching and hitting John in my sleep; thank God he understands and knows what to do on those nights when the nightmares are really bad. Plus, I fart in my sleep, so don’t worry: you’re good.”

It was sunny that day….Friday 20th March, the first day of spring. We had our showers. We chatted about how torn he felt between remaining in Dundee and going home to be with his family, something I well understand, as I have been dealing with this dilemma for 18 years. After coffee, we gave each other some alone time: there were things he needed to do, and I decided to go outside and work in my garden. After that we walked into City Centre, revelling in the sunshine, the sight of people on the streets and the fact that Burger King – which we’d both been craving – was still open.

Josh, needing to return to his student flat and pack things up, had packed the bag he’d brought to my house and taken it with him for his trip into town. “Just in case I need to bring more stuff to yours, or I decide it’s best for me to go home and be with my folks,” he explained.

“Got it,” I said. “Whatever you do, I’ll support you – you know where I am.” We hugged each other tightly; I kissed him his cheek. He headed off down the Perth Road and I went into the Overgate to have a wee wander through Primark.

Josh is gone now; I no longer have a roommate. After much soul searching – which I watched him do, listening to him while he did it – he made the decision to go back to England to be with his family. And I admire him so much for making that decision.

I’m doing a lot of soul-searching now, just as my friend Josh did. I have lived in Scotland for 18 years. I’m heavily emotionally invested in this country – I have grown old here. My partner John is here.

I wish I knew what to do. At any rate, the decision may soon be taken out of my hands: as more events get cancelled, as more and more businesses close their doors, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a ban on all flights imposed in the near future.

For the moment, I’m going to shove that thought aside. I’ve been given the gift of another day: I woke up in a cosy, comfortable space that is familiar and well loved. The sun is shining, John is in his usual spot on the sofa with a cuppie and his book of the moment, Planet Rock is playing Steely Dan, and I have pots of sweet peas, lilies and violas to plant in my garden.

The worst thing that ever happened to me was the death of my mom. Somehow, I got through that. I’m not over it, and probably never will be, but I got through it. So I’ll get through this, too.

Y’all stay safe.

K  xxx

physical distancing

Let me use my favourite Dundee-ism and say: I’M GOBSMACKED.

I can’t wrap my head around all this. I’m up – been up since 5:45am, but not because I have to go to work…there’s no work for me to go to: when I arrived at my job yesterday morning I was greeted at the door by our head of Health and Safety, who gently told me to go home. “You’ll continue to be paid,” he said. “I can’t give you a precise date on when we expect to re-open….maybe after the Easter holidays.” Shocked into silence, I immediately started to cry, which led to a small bout of hyperventilating. Thankfully, he did not laugh at me.

Thus I’m on Day 2 of the new “social distancing.” A term I’ve grown to hate; humans are largely social creatures by nature, and this term sounds so grim and foreboding. Henceforth, I shall refer to this as “physical distancing”.

If you’ve been reading this blog since its inception, then you’ll know I’ve pretty much always practiced physical distancing. I am a loner by nature, a trait I probably inherited from my father. Although I like people well enough, am known for hugging my friends and blessed with good friends on both sides of the pond who truly love me, I’m not a big fan of humanity. Unlike my Mom (and Anne Frank) I’ve never assumed or believed that people are basically good. Which is probably a good thing, because it means I can be delighted by the rare random acts of kindness I witness on occasion. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a lot of these lately.

My bonnie Dundee – which you will be aware that I fell in love with upon my first visit – is changed; it’s like a ghost town. The few people who are out and about give you a wide berth – they stare at you with naked suspicion and even fear. As Dundee is tiny, and I’ve been here for 18 years, I know a lot of people – I see them every day on my walk to and from work. We stop and chat, crack jokes, and often we hug.

Covid-19 has changed that. The security guard at the Central Library always stands at the bus stop to have a last fag before starting his work day and as I’m a smoker too, we always pause to say hi to one another and have a wee blether about the weather or what we plan to do at the weekend. He’d switched to standing inside the gates to the Library, and now he’s not there at all, as all the libraries have closed.

The Syrian guy whose family owns my local shop used to be outside every morning sweeping the area in front of the shop clear of fag ends and crisp packets and other litter. We became friends after my 3rd redundancy, when, in desperation, I asked him for a job. He calls me “Miss Lady”. “You too smart to work in a shop,” he told me, “Have faith – you will get job right for you.” (I did).

His name is Bijou, and after that exchange I would visit his shop frequently; usually to buy cigarettes, as my smoking increases when I am stressed, and being unemployed is always stressful. We learned each other’s stories and always parted with a warm clasp of both hands. Now, Bijou doesn’t sweep the front of the shop in the mornings anymore, letting the winds blow the garbage away. He stays inside the shop, and though his voice remains warm and welcoming, his smile is sad and we no longer part with our ritual clasp of hands.

And I get that. He – like me and many other people – is afraid. And fear and uncertainly makes people do strange things. Me personally, fear causes me to react angrily – I find I am frequently angry since this whole mess began. I am angry that I have three friends currently stuck in foreign countries hoping they can get home. I am angry that the kids where I work will not get to walk across the stage in Caird Hall to get their degrees following four years of hard graft in English, Anthropology, Political Science and other subjects – they will have no Grad Ball. I am angry that there are unscrupulous people taking advantage of the elderly by offering to go to the shops for them, taking their money and not returning. I am angry that the asshole who lives in the building behind me thinks it’s funny to build a toilet roll pyramid in his window. I am angry at people who still aren’t taking this unprecedented event seriously. Mostly, I’m angry at the people in power who failed to act quickly.

Having said that, I realise anger is no good; it’s certainly not good for my physical health or my mental state, which I’ve fought so hard to regain following the death of my Mom. So I remind myself frequently to just BREATHE. I clean my wee home, which I am grateful for. I thank God that my family and my friends are still safe, and bless the technology that allows me to speak with them and see their faces daily. I take joy in the fact that outside my kitchen window with its new curtains things are blooming in my tiny garden and the weather is now good enough that I can hang my washing outdoors.

I check on my elderly neighbours Jack and Sarah every day. And I try to be a comfort to Josh, one of my beloved kids from work who is staying with me for the moment. He’s such a sweetie, and he’s so young, and this is so scary. I’ve been told I’m not the easiest person to live with, and that may be true. But I’ll be damned if I let someone – anyone – I care about go through this current uncertainty alone.

No man is an island; we ARE in this together. So take care of one another, and STAY SAFE.

K xxx

Sunday correspondence

Dundee sun shines
& she’s wide awake
determined that from this day
nothing but joy will she take

from the crisp curtains that hang
at the window frame
they’re 10 years old,
but she loves them just the same

to her plants
scattered everywhere
& the gray streaks that dot
her unmanageable hair

her house is clean
fresh laundry dances on the line
her belly’s full & nothing hurts
in her wee world all’s just fine

so she laughs at the way
the sunlight streams
while slim fingers on the keyboard
propel her closer to her dreams

copyright © 2020 KPM

it’s complicated

some days she is confident
handling whatever comes
some days she feels listless
lost in the doldrums

some days she laughs & laughs
she’s a joy to be around
then the black dog rears its head
& she goes underground

there are days when she’s gorgeous
her smile lights up the room
sometimes she’s overwhelmed
by fear, by doubt, by gloom

one day she’s a lion
with a terrifying roar
other days she’s a lamb
in a flower-filled meadow floor

you can love or hate her
however you’re inclined
fact is she’s unforgettable
& not easily defined

copyright © 2020 KPM